Trump Rejects GOP Emergency Declaration Compromise, Setting Up Rebuke

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 10: U.S. President Donald Trump walks on the South Lawn of the White House, on March 10, 2019 in Washington, DC. Trump spent the weekend at his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Bech, Fla. (Photo by Al Drago/Getty Images)
Al Drago/Getty Images North America

President Trump has rejected a GOP measure that would change the law on future emergency declarations, eliminating what appears to be the final last-ditch attempt to avoid the Senate publicly rebuking the President on his border wall declaration.

Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), who’d crafted the face-saving resolution, told senators that Trump was refusing to accept his plan on Wednesday afternoon, two sources who were present for the conversation told TPM.

“Lee said he talked to the president and the president’s currently not supportive of what he wants,” said one GOP senator.

Another source present said many Republicans thought that Trump had been leaning toward taking the deal but that he told Lee Wednesday afternoon that Trump said he’d decided he wouldn’t be able to support the bill.

The senator cautioned that Trump’s position may still change — “It is only Wednesday, and it is the Trump administration.” But the bill is just one day away from receiving a vote, and Lee’s offer was the only one out there that looked to give the president an out.

Trump’s decision means the Senate is all but certain to vote in bipartisan fashion to rebuke the president on Thursday in a resolution of disapproval for Trump’s attempts to seize money for border wall construction through an emergency declaration. Four Republican senators have publicly committed to voting with Democrats on the resolution, which needs just 51 votes to pass the Senate, and a number of others are considering doing so as well. Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) had been wavering as he eyed Lee’s proposal, which would curtail presidents’ abilities to declare future national emergencies without impacting the current bill. But with Trump refusing to even consider that, it’s likely the bill will pass the Senate.

The bill is largely symbolic, as Trump has said he’ll veto it and Trump’s emergency resolution is already tied up in the courts. But it could force Trump to issue the first veto of his presidency — and could mark a rare occasion where a significant number of Senate Republicans are willing to go on record to vote against Trump.

Trump’s move comes just one day after Vice President Mike Pence indicated to Republican senators in a closed-door meeting that Trump was open to Lee’s legislation as a way to avoid an embarrassing public rebuke that would expose rifts within the GOP. Trump has been lobbying hard for Republicans to fall in line and vote to support his emergency declaration. But many of of them have constitutional issues with the move and are worried that his attempt to seize funds they appropriated to other military projects for his long-sought border wall could undercut projects they deem important.

His latest refusal to compromise increases the likelihood not just that the bill will pass the Senate, but that a large number of Republicans cross their president on a high-profile vote for arguably the first time in his presidency.

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